Snipe Hunt Harris County Style
by Ron Rollins
The Southern Snipe Hunt
Spring is here again and most students are looking to spring break. For the families of the North it’s the time of year to hit the beaches of Florida, to shake off the winters cold. For the Southern outdoors man it brings a close to the years hunting season as Turkey season comes to an end and guns are traded for fishing rods and water sports. Only one hunting event stays in place, as it has for generations, it requires no firearms, and must be done at night. It is a “rite of passage” in the historic South. It is a Southern Tradition that most have heard stories told about, but only a special few have had the experience of being a quest on one of these exciting hunts. What is this hunt? The Southern Snipe Hunt!
In the spring of 1998, we had a family of Rollins cousins visit during spring break. They are from the up-state New York area not far from Rochester. They spent their time here with Donna and Spencer on the Pine Hampton farm that belonged to Spenser’s family in Harris County. Donna is my first cousin from my dad’s side and the N. Y. company was her brothers family,thus my first cousins. Donna’s brother Greg and his wife Cathy had four children, two girls age 19 and 8 and two boys age 16 and 13. The boys were the ones asking to go on a Snipe Hunt—- the story begins!
During the time of their stay, I had to go to work every day at my electronics busyness in Whitesville. The family was entertained with trips to Callaway Gardens or boat trips on the back waters of Lake Harding. Every evening we had an outdoor cookout for dinner as the boys fished in the farm pond till dinner was served. Each afternoon when I arrived the boys would be gain questioning me as to when was I going to take them Snipe hunting. Every day Spencer would tell them of past hunts, the number of Snipe captured, and how to call them in . Each evening I was also able to give them more information on how to store the bird when caught and explain how the owl was the birds friend and they would only come out of the brush when they believed an owl was guarding them from there natural enemies. Again we would put them off on when the hunt would be, saying things as the moon wasn’t right tonight or the crows were to loud before dark which was a sign the snipe were not in the area. The boys knowledge of Snipe grew as well as their desire to go hunting. The wait was killing them as they ask over and over for me to let them hunt Snipe.
Friday is here, Spencer, CIII, and Myself have our plan together. I call at 4 pm and tell the Yankee’s they will be going Snipe hunting tonight. The moon is right! Spencer get the boys a croker sack to put snipe in to carry them back to the cabin after the hunt. They gather up the flash lights and fresh batteries I drive in around 6 pm and tell then the hunt will begin at 9 pm. I then hand the an owl call to use to make the snipe feel at ease and come to them; as they sit in the Dove field later that night to hunt.
As dinner is being prepared, the Boys are sent down to the T box near the lake to sit and practice on the owl call they were given, as words of encouragement were yelled back to them as they got better with the call; from all the on lookers on the deck. CIII arrives for dinner and gives the boys a roll of duct tape and advises them it is easier to tape the birds feet together so they won’t run off if they wake up. You can stack them up like cord wood and they can’t run away, CIII says.
Dinner is served. The boys excitement is growing as their Mother get them to eat dinner, telling them they will be out there a while, so eat. CIII receives a cell phone call and tells the boys he must leave for a while but will return to see how they did a little later tonight.
The plan is now being implemented! CIII is really going to set up the rabbit call amp and speakers on the hood of his Jeep, across the dove field on a wooded hill to make what the boys think is the call of the Snipe.
The Snipe Hunt Begins
9 pm arrives, the boys are loaded on the golf cart with their gear: flash light, duct tape, club stick, croaker sack, and the most important tool the owl call. I now take the two teenagers to the field and sit them in the middle of the twenty acre field. Their instructions on how to hunt Snipe are: sit quietly, don’t wander around, stay put. Call every once in a while with the owl call; when you here the Snipe calling call some more with the owl call, they will leave the woods and come to you. When you hear them in close to you turn on the light, this will freeze them in place- hit them on the head with the club and tape it’s feet- then turn off the light. Call again with the owl call, they will come back- do it over and over till you get the limit of twelve. you can then bring them to the house wait an hour and do it again. But please understand timing is everything. Don’t turn on the light till you are sure they are close enough to you to hit with the stick or they will stay back from you.
After dropping off the boys, I drove back to the cabin; then came back in one hour to check on them and bring a RC cola. I ask how they were doing ,gave them some encouragement and left them again. Oh, at that time they hadn’t got any yet(ha ha) but thought they were turning on the light to early, they were hearing plenty of Snipe and thought they saw one just before I arrived. They sure were hearing a lot in the woods over there!
11pm I go back out to check on them. No luck yet! The younger boy wanted to leave as he was sleepy, but the older boy said he was staying and didn’t want to leave till he got at least one. I take the younger one back with me. In about 15min. CIII call on the cell to tell me the older one is moving closer to the woods each time he uses the rabbit call. He is trying to sneak up on the Snipe. CIII is thinking he will spot him soon if he keeps moving up. I tell him to discontinue the rabbit call and I will pick up the boy in the field. I will tell the boy the fog coming in blocks the moon for the Snipe and they left. The hunt is over! Meet us at the cabin when you see me pick him up and drive over the hill. I will take him the long way back to give you time to be at the cabin when we get there. I did pick him up but he really didn’t want to stop, talk about dedication!
We all are at the cabin, the boys are telling everyone of their hunting adventure. They try to talk their parents into delaying their leaving to Orlando in the morning; as they want to give up day at Disney World to Snipe Hunt again. No one had the guts to tell the boys they had been had at that time as they keep proudly tell of their adventure. They go off to bed. Greg chuckles and says” that was the best practical joke ever” I am going to try this at home on some of my hunting buddies. Oh! I’ll tell the boys after we get home! First I want them to tell this story and help me convince my buddies that this is a real snipe hunt; then the boys can help me pull it off on the others. What a snipe hunt!
All of you that read this now know, if anyone wants you to go on a Snipe Hunt– be sure to ask them where is the owl call!